click here to skip directly to page content
Media Access Group  Versión en español
About Us Services and Products Research and Development Resources Get Involved

Who we are, who we work with, what we've done, what's next, and how to reach us.

News Archive

Press contact:
Mary Watkins
Media Access Group at WGBH
(617) 300-3700
(617) 300-2489 TTY
For immediate release
March 7, 2003

Road to Perdition, Chicago: City of the Century, Partners of the Heart
Latest DVD Releases to Include Descriptive Audio Track

Boston, MA — Road to Perdition (DreamWorks Home Entertainment), and two American Experience documentaries >Chicago: City of the Century and Partners of the Heart (PBS Home Video) have become the latest DVD titles to include descriptive narration for users who are blind or have low vision as well as captioning for users who are deaf or hard of hearing. Captioning, now nearly ubiquitous, and DVS® or Descriptive Video Service® were both pioneered for television, feature films, and now other media formats by Boston public broadcaster WGBH and its Media Access Group.

Video, or audio descriptions, are spoken narration inserted between pauses in dialogue, which help fill in the visual picture by describing character movements, settings and facial expressions. Descriptive narration is currently available for select programs on public and commercial networks including PBS, CBS, Nickelodeon, Lifetime and USA Network. In 2003, over fifty films will be released with captions and descriptions in first-run theaters equipped with WGBH's Motion Picture Access (MoPix®) technologies, and WGBH's access division distributes a collection of over 200 major home video titles which have been described. DVD titles released with description tracks remain rare.

By far the fastest growing consumer product over the last few years has been the DVD, favored for its "real estate" which permits a multitude of bonus features such as director's commentary, music videos and games, as well as the inclusion of multiple audio tracks. The space on a DVD, and the ability to choose between audio tracks, provides a flexibility and universal design element prohibited by the home video format. People with disabilities purchase DVD players and DVDs as well, and are anxious to have full access to enjoy all that they offer.

In addition to closed captioning and description, the American Experience Chicago: City of the Century and Partners of the Heart DVDs include a "talking menu" or audible navigation feature, also pioneered by WGBH. This feature enables users who are blind or have low vision to move through the on-screen menus independently via their remote controls.

Road to Perdition
Nominated for six Academy Awards®, Road to Perdition, starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law and directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty), weaves a mesmerizing tale of a father and son bound together by tragedy traveling on a journey to honor and redemption. Road to Perdition, from DreamWorks Home Entertainment (rated R) is available now wherever DVDs are sold. Funding for the captioning and description of Road to Perdition in theaters, as well as funding to reformat those features for the DVD release is provided by DreamWorks Pictures.

American Experience: Chicago: City of the Century
Chicago: City of the Century examines how in just 60 years Chicago grew from a remote, swampy frontier town into one of the most explosively alive cities in the world. It's the story of the wealthy and the indigent, the heralded and the forgotten, the shop assistants and the millionaire retail barons who together created Chicago. It describes how through innovation, ingenuity, determination and sheer ruthlessness, the captains of industry created empires in a marshy wasteland. And it explores the hardships endured by the millions of working men and women-- most of them immigrants from Ireland and Northern Europe-- whose labor helped a capitalist class reinvent the way America did business.

Chicago: City of the Century is a co-production of public television stations WGBH Boston and WTTW Chicago in association with the Chicago Historical Society. The program is produced, written and directed by Austin Hoyt. The co-producer and co-director is Patricia Garcia-Rios. The film was narrated by David Ogden Stiers (of TV's M*A*S*H). Major funding for this program is provided by the Rauner Family Foundation and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs Bureau of Tourism. Audio navigation was produced by WGBH Interactive in consultation with American Experience and the Media Access Group.

American Experience: Partners of the Heart
In 1944, two men at Johns Hopkins University Hospital pioneered a groundbreaking procedure that would save thousands of so-called blue babies' lives and change the course of medical history. One of them, Alfred Blalock, was a prominent white surgeon. The other, Vivien Thomas, was an African American with a high school education. Partners of the Heart tells the inspiring, little-known story of their collaboration in an unlikely time and place to leave the world a life-saving legacy.

Partners of the Heart, a Duke Media and Spark Media Production for American Experience, is produced and directed by Andrea Kalen and written by Lou Potter and Andrea Kalin. The film is narrated by Morgan Freeman. Audio navigation was produced by Spark Media and Pushy Broad Productions, and programmed by Video Arts in consultation with the MAG. Major funding for this program is provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Chicago: City of the Century (4 disk set) and Partners of the Heart are sold exclusively through the PBS Home Video. Order via phone at 1-800-645-4727 or online at the PBS e-commerce site, shopPBS (

Media Access Group at WGBH
The Media Access Group at WGBH, with offices in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, is a non-profit service of Boston public broadcaster WGBH. The service group includes Descriptive Video Service¨, which has made television, film and video more enjoyable to viewers who are blind or visually impaired since 1990, as well as The Caption Center-- the world's first captioning agency -- founded in 1972. The third branch of the Media Access Group, the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM), is a research, development and advocacy entity that works to make existing and emerging technologies accessible to all audiences. Members of the Group's collective staff represent the leading resources and experts in their fields. For more information, visit

American Experience
Since its debut in 1988, American Experience has brought stories of the people and events that shaped this country into nearly eight million homes each week. As television's longest-running, most-watched history series, American Experience brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that helped form this nation. Major funding for American Experience is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. National corporate funding provided by Liberty Mutual and The Scotts Company. Additional funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.

WGBH Boston
WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer, the source of nearly one-third of PBS's prime-time lineup and companion online content as well as many public radio favorites. WGBH is a pioneer in educational multimedia (including the Web, broadband, and interactive television) and in technologies and services that make media accessible for people with disabilities. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia AwardsÉeven two Oscars. In 2002, WGBH was honored with a special institutional Peabody Award for 50 years of excellence. For more information visit

Caption Services Description Services NCAM